Sunday, August 26, 2007

We Must Protect this House (of Saud)!

Read this article from FT on the Saudi Arabian effort to train an "oil infrastructure defense force." Check out how the author describes what recruits are being trained to do:

The force already numbers about 5,000 personnel, a Saudi adviser said on Sunday. They are being trained in the use of new surveillance equipment, countermeasures and crisis management under a programme managed by US defence group Lockheed Martin, according to the Middle East Economic Survey in Nicosia.

The recruits are learning about laser security and satellite imaging from Lockheed on behalf of the Sandia National Laboratories’ Defense Systems and Assessments Unit – a US government run unit in New Mexico, said MEES.

[scene missing]

Members of the new force, responsible for external and internal security, are being heavily vetted and largely recruited from outside the security forces because of the nature of its task, but it will include members of the existing forces.

(emphasis mine)

I must be confused with what is exactly meant by "external and internal security" here. Are we talking about inside and outside the refineries and other facilities? Or are we talking about inside and outside the country?

On one level the foreign/domestic nature of this security detail would make some sense since Saudi Arabia is, after all, an oil exporting country and getting the oil from point A to point B is half the battle (hey, there are still pirates in those international waters).

But on another level this description sounds like the Saudis are establishing a kind of petro-CIA. Saudi Intelligence (the General Intelligence Directorate or, in Arabic, Mukhabarat) has a reputation for operating more like a bank than spy agency -- at least when it was run by Turki al-Faisal -- and I know very little of how it handles domestic intelligence issues (but I can take a guess), so it's interesting to see the country organize this kind of hands-on security force instead of just bribing foreigners all the time.

I'm kind of curious about the other kinds of training these guys will get -- i.e. will they all become experts in petroleum fire-fighting techniques too?

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